Digital Corona Certificate – eating our own dog food

One of the things that we are active in at the moment is a project around a digital corona health certificate. The idea is that testing will be crucial to overcome the corona crisis and that digitalisation might help to improve testing. We joined a strong consortium with many partners from the healthcare sector to push this forward – and also entered a partnership with Centogene, an international bio-tech company that is able to offer large PCR-test capacities to the market.

The project aims at digitizing the Corona test-result for a person that got tested – whether it is a virus test (PCR or antigen), a test for antibodies or later also a proof of being vaccinated. Having that piece of evidence also in your pocket in a digital form makes obvious sense, because it is more comfortable, it is safer (can get verified), and it also saves time from taking a probe to having the test result.

But of course this is not just for fun. We think that people do test themselves for a reason. Maybe because they just want to visit grandparents again without risk, but clearly there will also be scenarios where a certain test-status will be required e.g. to enter a country or go back to work (maybe also with a strategy called pool-testing)- or start playing football again.

Sounds a bit like “yes, sure – let’s go for it!”. But of course it is not as easy as that. There are huge discussions around privacy, potential discrimination and other unwanted effects for civil rights, certain groups or the society as such.

But that does not necessarily mean that no actions should be taken – everyone should just be cautious and act as responsible as possible. Talk to data-protection specialists and also authorities. Talk to people that are sceptic from an ethical or philosophical point of view. Think about labor law and what labor unions might think. And of course also: talk to lawyers and let them do their job. Because i believe that in the light of the biggest economical crisis that we saw since WWII and as more than 100.000 people already died from Covid19 in Europe – we have to figure out new ways to fight the virus. For me that also means: finding ways to get back to normal in a safer way. I strongly believe in the power of digital tools, especially as the situation will stay complicated not only until we found a vaccine – it will also take some time to get people vaccinated (for those that want to).

But of course we also have to find a solution that is doable from a legal point of view, at the highest possible standards towards GDPR requirements and also well thought through from an ethical point of view.

But in such a critical project where we are aiming at something that might be used to get people back to work or into an airplane again, you maybe have to go one step further, you have to eat you own dog-food.

That’s why we decided to discuss a self-testing strategy with our own team first. In all aspects, ethical, labor-law-wise, privacy but also simply: how does it feel? How can we safeguard a truly freedom of choice whether someone wants to participate, but does not want to be seen as the one who refuses to participate for whatever reasons? We are in the middle of that process and will document the outcome and learnings here on our blog over the next couple of weeks.

One first discussion that we had was already very insightful. A colleague who is working a lot to get the project going said that he is not sure, whether his family would like if he is going to get tested. Everyone in the call was a bit suprised, but he argued that he might turn out to be positive without symptoms and then the whole family would be forced to go into quarantine. Which is right and everyone understood, that this is an issue. Then we discussed what it would mean to be positive and go untested, and maybe infect lots of other people unintended, some of them maybe vulnerable. Than we came to the conclusion, that the risk of being in quarantine is less of a burden than the risk of being positive without knowing. But i don’t know whether we convinced him because we will invest more into a system of making the participation a double-blind opt-in for our employees. Not yet fully clear how this can be done, but we are on it.

A test version of our digital corona certificate – the QR code can be used to verify the result against the according blockchain certificate

As a CEO i will do the first self-test in a few days. For me it really feels like something i want to have in a digital form, too. But we also had discussions in the family, just in a different direction. Our kids have not been visiting their grandparents for more than 6 weeks now – before that there were contacts almost on a daily basis, especially for our little one. So my family wants to get tested, too. If we turn out to be negative and the result arrives quick enough (another argument for the digital version btw) we will go and visit grandmother including lots of hugs… (because experts say that after a negative test-result you are almost for sure not infectious for the next 2-3 days).

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